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College Democrats say Secretary of State’s efforts to resolve suit are a “win for democracy”

Nate Hofer

The Michigan College Democrats say the Secretary of State’s efforts to promote college-age voter participation are a “win for democracy.”

On Wednesday, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced steps her office will be taking to resolve a lawsuit filed last year by the College Democrats.

That suit challenged, among other things, a requirement that first time voters vote in person if they registered through the mail or at a registration drive.

Ethan Petzold is the President of the Michigan Federation of College Democrats. He said for students that didn’t change their address that could mean traveling for hours to cast a ballot.

“That for a lot of students on a Tuesday is an insurmountable barrier to exercising their right to vote.”

Officials with the Secretary of State’s office say Proposal 3 changed the in-person requirement allowing first time voters to vote absentee.

The suit also took aim at the state’s one address law, requiring that the address on your driver's license and voter registration is the same.

Petzold said that law has lead to confusion about how students can vote on campus.

“So through this increased education by the Secretary of State’s office I think we’re going to see a lot more students exercising their right to vote.”

Petzold said in some instances college students were turned away for using college ID instead of driver’s licenses at the polls. College ID is acceptable at the polls as long as you have already changed your address.

The state’s one-address law has not been changed, but officials with the Secretary of State’s office say that they will be creating a website that clarifies many of the states voting requirements. The website will explain proof of residency and how students living in college dorms can fulfill them.

State officials said other changes, including same day voter registration and no reason absentee voting, that were part of proposal 3, will also help resolve the lawsuit.

Petzold said he believes these changes will lead to increased voter turnout in the next election.

“With students being able to vote and exercise the right to vote that we really have to make a difference at all levels of government this year. We’re really excited that this settlement was reached.”

In a written statement Jocelyn Benson said “young voters are the future of our state and our democracy, and we need their voices at the table.”

You can read through the agreement that is part of the state’s settlement with the College Democrats here: